May 28, 2016

School's Out!

Yesterday we finished up the last of our schoolwork for the year. (well, except for the two subjects that we will be working all summer to finish but that's a topic for another post)

The kids are really sad...

Hahaha! Not really. They actually feel like this...

We are all excited for 12 weeks of sleeping in, endless reading, fires in the fire pit, s'mores, swimming, VBS, chess club, parks, popsicles, late nights running around the backyard in the dark, camping, cloud watching, star gazing, bike riding, ice cream floats, watermelon, insect catching, nature study, free time galore and a whole lot of glorious boredom,

May 26, 2016

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Sunya

Sunya Publishing is brand new. They are in the process of putting out two brand new games. They aren't even available to the public yet! These are math games and we got to review one of them: Sunya- The Magic and Wonder of Math and Science Multiplying and Dividing. Sunya is intended for 1 to 5 players between the ages of 9 to adult.

The game consists of 2 decks of cards (a math deck and a science/riddles deck) and an instruction book. The book is 25 pages long and is spiral bound. It contains not only the basic rules of the game, but variations on the rules, some math information and history, a short explanation of the history of Brahmi numerals and information on the science/riddles deck of cards.

Math and Science {Sunya Publishing Review}

One deck of cards (what we call the math cards) are numbered one to nine but there are varying amounts of each number. The deck also includes two wild cards and one each multiplication, division and equals card. As you can see, each number card has the appropriate amount of purple dots on it.

The other deck of cards has a science question, a science fact, a math question or a riddle on it. The answers to the questions and riddles are upside down on the bottom of the card. These cards are the "reward" for winning as the winner gets to read one aloud at the end of the game.

At first, the rules of the game seemed quite complicated, but as we played, it all came clear. We were able to play fairly quickly and keep the game moving quite nicely. Since all four of my kids have been exposed to multiplication and division, we were all able to play. But this is a review sort of game and not a teaching game. It will help your child solidify their math facts but they should already understand the concept of multiplying and dividing.

There were a few rules that we disagreed with and tweaked as we went along. Especially the "how to win" rule. We decided that having to completely play all of your cards was too hard, and the game was taking too long, so we made a discard pile and discarded a card at the end of each turn. This also added an element of strategy to the game because deciding which cards to keep and which to get rid of can change everything.

We did, however, employ the suggestion that kids can play cooperatively and we helped each other when we got stuck. As we get stronger in our math facts, I'm certain the game will get more cut-throat. 

It was Nate's idea to simultaneously make the game more difficult and more interesting by taking a couple of index cards and drawing plus and minus signs on them. He wanted to make math sentences like:

2 + 5 x 3 = 30.

This did make the game more fun!

I think the riddle cards were by far our favorite part of the game! The kids kept sneaking them out and reading them to each other.

The kids' say this about the game:

Kaytie: It looks like a short game, but it takes longer than you think it will. It was simple for me and helps with learning the facts. Overall it was pretty fun.

Nate: It was boring because it was math. The plus and minus signed made it more interesting even though it really just added more math. But it was more fun than I thought it would be for math.

Daniel: It was fun because it challenged me. It was frustrating at times but was mostly fun. 

Abbie: It was actually pretty fun, although it was math. 

So there you have it. Even in a family that is "allergic" to math, this is a great game to play.

Math and Science {Sunya Publishing Review}

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May 20, 2016

No More Math!!!!

Our semi-tradition of taking a picture at the end of the year. When they finished their last test of the year I snapped a picture of each of them! We still have a little bit of work to wrap up, but finishing off the math book is always the real "high" of the end of school.

May 19, 2016

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Memoria Press Logic

One of the long-term goals my husband and I have for our children's education and one of the major reasons why we homeschool our kids is giving them the ability to think and reason. We don't want them to blindly accept whatever they are told as truth. We want them to read between the lines, to think outside of the box, to be creative problem solvers. Naturally, this goal guides our curriculum choices in many ways. One of those ways is that we teach Logic as a formal subject in our school. Kaytie and Nate (who are 13 and 12 respectively) have both completed a couple of logic courses. They were casual, "simple" courses, so I was excited to be asked to review Traditional Logic I Complete Set from Memoria Press because it seemed like the logical (pun intended) next step.

Logic, Greek Myths and Astronomy Memoria Press Review

This course is intended for kids in 7th grade and up. It is a no-frills kind of thing. It comes with a consumable Student book, a Teacher Key, a book of quizzes and tests, and two instructional DVDs.

The DVDs are essentially Martin Cothran teaching the lessons. They also contain slides of the important points in a lesson, which, I think, would be a handy way to teach your child to take notes.

The bulk of the material is in the Student book. This is a soft cover, 146 page workbook written to the student. The instruction from the DVDs are also in the book. The text is broken up into short segments which is good, because there is a lot of information in there! Each day, a section or two is assigned for reading and then there are questions over the material for the student to answer. They can write their answers directly in the book. A lot of the answers are fill in the blank, matching, or True/False, but many require short answers.

The Teacher Key contains the answers to the questions in the workbook. It also has the answers for the quizzes and tests. Or maybe I should say "test", because there are 13 quizzes and a final exam.

This course is traditional formal logic, a distinction that is explained to the student (and in our case, me, the teacher, as well) right away. I took a Logic course in college, so I expected to enjoy a refresher, but this was deep. A lot more deep than I ever imagined I would find in a middle school/high school level program. In the first chapter we ran into a question that took us several minutes of breaking down each part of the sentence just so we could figure out what was being asked. Then we had to figure out the answer!

Since my kids are on the lower end of the age range for this course, we tweaked our use of it greatly. I did not require them to watch the DVD. I'll save that for later. I also did not hand them the book and walk away. I did expect them to read the passages on their own, but then we went over the questions and answers together very slowly. I didn't make them write them down, but we did them orally. There wasn't enough room for them to write the short answer questions anyway.

I think that Traditional Logic I is a good curriculum and will help me reach my goal of teaching them to think and reason. I just think that we need to wait until they are actually in high school to finish it. To see what other Crew members thought, click on the banner below!

Logic, Greek Myths and Astronomy Memoria Press Review
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May 17, 2016

Schoolhouse Review Crew: IEW Poetry Memorization

Over the last ten years or so that I have been a homeschool mom, I have used a lot of different products and dealt with a lot of different companies that produce those products. Most of our curriculum I use because it is just a good fit for us and I never really think twice about the people that make and sell it. Some of our curriculum I use despite my vague dislike of the people that offer it. But our very favorites are not just a good fit, they come from a top-notch company that not only produces high quality materials but also obviously care about the families they work with. They care about my family. This company is Institute for Excellence in Writing and we were absolutely thrilled to be asked to review their Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization.

Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization  IEW Review

When I was a child, I thought I didn't like poetry. To me, "poetry" was long, imagery-filled verses of tales that were hard to understand and impossible to enjoy. The funny thing is, though, that while I was busy hating poetry I was memorizing fun little snippets of rhyme like Great, Wide, Beautiful, Wonderful World, The Barefoot Boy, bits and pieces of The Walrus and the Carpenter, and even (almost) in its entirety, The Lady of Shalott.

I mention this because as an adult I enjoy inserting poetic quotes into my day. We often tell the children, "The time has come, the Walrus said, to brush your teeth and go to bed" which is not exactly how it goes but gets the point across. Or when they are fighting I can laugh, "Little birdies in their nests agree." My husband stirs them to action by exclaiming, "Once more into the breech, dear fellows!" Or when I leave the house I give Shakespeare himself a twist by declaring, "Farewell, Sweet Prince; and flights of angels sing thee to they rest."

As our kids have grown older, they easily identify with these poems when they encounter them in their books. They also have started mimicking us by memorizing their own favorite poems and tossing quotes from them into our daily lives. It's fun.

There are a lot of other advantages to learning poetry: building a vocabulary; teaching correct language patterns; strengthening the connections of neurons in the brain; giving a sense of accomplishment and more. These advantages are talked about and explained in the program itself.

This program consists of a Teacher's Manual and five CDs plus a bonus DVD. In the Teacher's Manual are instructions for downloading a digital, printable Student e-book. This is a PDF and you can print off as many copies as you need for your family. Or you can buy a printed copy of the Student Book if you prefer. We were given a physical copy as well as the download for the purpose of this review, but it doesn't actually come with the set. Also included are seven audio MP3s that you can download and listen to. These aren't so much a part of the program as they explain the methodology behind the program. These talks are:

  • Nurturing Competent Communicators (you also get a hard copy DVD of this with your CDs)
  • Mastery Learning, Ability Development, and Individualized Education
  • Ten Thousand Times and Then Begins Understanding
  • On Listening
  • On Speaking
  • On Reading
  • On Writing

The Teacher's Manual is a soft cover, spiral bound book with instructions on how to implement this approach to memory work. It also has a copy of every poem or speech for all five levels. In the very back are biographies of the authors of the poems and speeches, and lesson enhancements. These enhancements are suggestions on ways to inject some science, history, literary devices, and even irony (we love us some irony around here!) into your poetry memorization.

The Student e-book (and the printed version as well) have copies of the poems and speeches for all five levels with (in the lower levels) illustrations. Simple, line drawn, but engaging illustrations that your child can color if they like as they work on the poem. This gives your child their very own copy of the work.

The CDs are audio versions of Andrew Pudewa reading each poem aloud, slowly and clearly.

The way Poetry Memorization works is quite simple. It is highly recommended that every student, no matter their age, starts at the very first poem. The pace is set by the student, because you are working for mastery, that is, complete memorization of each poem. There is a simple four step method to follow that involves both auditory and visual learning. This method only takes a few minutes a day and we found it very easy to slip into our daily group time schedule.

When the poem is fully memorized, it goes into a review rotation that is detailed in the book. There is a chart in the Student book that helps with this. After your child has memorized 20 poems, they are given the chance to choose their own piece. They then start Level Two.

We have really enjoyed this method of memorization. I was amazed at how it all worked together to make the work so much easier. We have struggled for years to do scheduled memory work and never were able to pull it off.  I had a hard time choosing what to learn, the kids never seemed to make any progress and I usually gave up after only a few weeks, Now, not only do I have a list of good, quality pieces, the kids are quickly and easily memorizing them. When I first looked at this, it seemed like too simplistic of a idea to actually work. But it really does. And because it is so simple we don't dread it like our old method of trying to say it from memory before it was really in our memory. It takes a few minutes each day and we can see steady progress.

I love IEW because I believe they produce quality products that really help my kids learn and to truly enjoy the process. I love listening to the talks that included with the purchase, Andrew Pudewa is always inspiring. I love that their products are as non consumable as possible. So as I always do when I review their products, I heartily recommend Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization.

Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization  IEW Review
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May 12, 2016

Schoolhouse Review Crew: ARTistic Pursuits Inc.

We have, over the years, done many reviews for ARTistic Pursuits Inc. and every time there is an offer to review another one, we elbow our way to the front of the line, because we LOVE the products so much!

This time, we were given the chance to use the book Sculpture Technique Model. As usual, my thirteen-year-old daughter, Kaytie, chose to use the book for this review. She loves any sort of creating and was excited to try her hand at sculpting. She had done some pottery work and playing with clay several years ago, but that was kid stuff and this just seemed more sophisticated.

ARTistic Pursuits Inc. Review

The book is divided into three different units:
  1. Creating Mass with Putty
  2. Creating Scale with Clay
  3. Creating Surface with Fiber
The supplies needed are all listed in the front of the book and separated by unit. This made it easy for us to pick up exactly what she needed once she decided where to start. I also appreciated the inclusion of handy tips like not washing the putty down the drain, what tools do what specific skill, and a whole section devoted to using the products safely. 

The units were divided into lessons that each taught one element of sculpture and offered a project that demonstrated that element. The projects were set up in such a way that the student could chose what to sculpt yet still follow step by step instructions to learn the skill. For both the putty and clay sections, after the sculpture was created, there were instructions, tips and suggestions on how to paint it.

This book is definitely for older children: middle school on up, because it is not a craft book, but an in-depth instruction on how to create, how to work with the medium, and much is left open for the student to decide as they learn and develop.

The book is written directly to the student, so I was able to hand it to Kaytie and let her have at it. She loves to create this way, so it is perfect for her. I told her to decided which medium she wanted to start with and let me know what we needed to get. 

She chose to hang out in the clay unit. She would disappear for hours at a time with the book into her bedroom, which doubles as her art studio. She would then resurface with a new creation for us to admire. 

Kaytie says: This book was different from the regular drawing books, because it had step by step pictures. As with all the books, I love how it is written to the student because I can work through it on my own, or a teacher could use it for a class. I like how it gave different techniques like "burnishing" and "etching" because it gave me lots of new stuff to try. I wish that some of the units were more flexible because the projects were centered around just one type of material and that meant I had to use that. I wish I could have learned the elements using several types of materials. 

To sum up, we highly recommend Sculpture Technique Model as well as all the other art books ARTistic Pursuits Inc offers.

Our other reviews are:

K-3 Book Two

Elementary 4-5 Book One

Elementary 4-5 Book Two

Middle School 6-8 Book One

ARTistic Pursuits Inc. Review

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